Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Sept. 17, 2003/ 20 Elul, 5763

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


Don't wait for government protection

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com |
On Sept. 11, 2001, the first individual to be named among the dead was the wife of the solicitor general, Barbara Olson, whom I'd sat next to at dinner a couple of months earlier. On Sept. 11, 2003, I woke to the news of the death of the Swedish foreign minister, Anna Lindh, whom I also sat next to a couple of months ago, at a conference. I can't claim anything other than the most casual acquaintance with either lady, but even an accidental proximity to the victims of terrible murder is sobering.

Lindh was a charmer, even if you didn't agree with a word she said. It wasn't until afterward that I found out she liked to refer to Bush as ''the Lone Ranger'' and that she'd complained about the United States dropping a bomb on six al-Qaida terrorists in Yemen: ''It is a summary execution that violates human rights,'' she said. ''Even terrorists must be treated according to international law.'' She believed in the so-called Swedish model, a phrase which to Don Rumsfeld probably means Anita Ekberg but which Swedes understand as the most advanced form of European cradle-to-grave welfare democracy. Conversely, the American model with its bizarre preoccupations -- guns, abortion, lethal injection, military budgets, non-confiscatory taxation -- strikes most European politicians as something from the Stone Age.

But, for the second time in as many weeks, I find myself wondering where European statism is heading. In France, where the death toll in the brutal Gallic summer is now up to 15,000, the attitude of Junior to the funny smell coming from gran'ma's apartment was the proverbial Gallic shrug and a demand that the government should do something about it. On Thursday, Swedes, though more upset, took much the same line: The government should have done more for Lindh.

''This can happen to anyone, anywhere,'' said Annika, described as ''a 24-year old bystander,'' at the scene of the attack. ''She should have had bodyguards.''

Donate to JWR

There seem to have been an awful lot of bystanders to Lindh's stabbing -- in broad daylight, in a crowded Stockholm department store, after being pursued by her assailant up an escalator. Granted that most of the people bystanding around were women, it still seems odd -- at least from this side of the Atlantic -- that no one attempted to intervene or halt the blood-drenched killer as he calmly left the store. I'm inclined to agree with Jimmy Hoffa that I'd rather jump a gun than a knife -- and evidently Jimmy's luck ran out eventually -- but, if just a handful of the dozens present, had acted rather than bystanding, Lindh might still be dead but her killer would be in jail and not en route, like the late Prime Minister Olav Palme's murderer, to becoming yet another man who got away.

''It's terrible wherever it happens,'' said Fredrik Sanabria. ''But you think you would be safe from this kind of violence in a country like Sweden.''

Really? Why would you think that? Sweden's violent crime and murder rates have been going up, up, up over the last quarter-century. But just about every Swede quoted in every news story seems mired in what National Review's Dave Kopel described, after 9/11, as ''the culture of passivity.'' The lone exception was Lanja Rashid, a Kurdish immigrant. ''If I had been there at the stabbing, I would have ripped his face off,'' she said. ''We Swedes have to think again. How could he have got away? How could people just stand back and watch?''

You can blame it on a lack of police, as everyone's doing. But Lindh's killer didn't get away with it because of the people who weren't there but because of the people who were: the bystanders. When I bought my home in New Hampshire, I heard a strange rustling one night, and being new to rural life, asked my police chief the following morning, if it had turned out to be an intruder whether I should have called him at home. ''Well, you could,'' said Al. ''But it would be better if you dealt with him. You're there and I'm not.'' That's the best advice I've ever been given.

This isn't an argument for guns, though inevitably Sweden has gun control, knife control and everything else. It's more basic than that: It's about the will to be a citizen, not just a suckler of the nanny-state narcotic. In Lee Harris' forthcoming book Civilization And His Enemies, he talks about the threat of societal forgetfulness: ''Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe.''

Lindh would have thought that was just American cowboy talk: too raw, too primal to be of relevance in Europe. But I don't think so. On 9/11 the only good news that lousy day was that the fourth plane never got to slice through the White House. That's because a bunch of passengers decided they weren't going to follow FAA regulations and outmoded 1970s hijack procedures but instead rose up against the terrorists. ''C'mon, guys, let's roll!'' said Todd Beamer. They could have used him in that department store.

That's the big lesson I took away from Sept. 11: Don't be passive. After 9/11, my wife bought me a cell phone, so that in the event I found myself in a similar situation I could at least call my family one last time. It's not much use up here in the mountains, so I never bothered getting it out of the box. If I ever am on a hijacked plane, while everyone else is dialing home, I'll be calling AT&T or Verizon trying to set up an account. But, of course, no one will ever hijack an American plane ever again -- not because of idiotic confiscations of tweezers, but because of the brave passengers on that fourth flight. That's why, three months later, the great British shoebomber had barely got the match to his sock before half the cabin pounded the crap out of him. Even the French. To expect the government to save you is to be a bystander in your own fate.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.

09/11/03: Predators aren't looking for peace
09/02/03: This is Hillary's moment — You go, girl!
08/29/03: There are now calls for greater UN involvement in Iraq. Thatís the last thing the country needs
08/26/03: There's only one hyperpower — so everything is our fault
08/04/03: The White Man's Burden
07/29/03: Bill Clinton got this right
06/25/03: It's Mullah time!
05/07/03: What counts is what a guy does when he's not talking
04/30/03: It's named UNSCAM for a very good reason!
04/14/03: Movers and shakers have moved on to the next 'disaster'
03/25/03: Give Saddam credit
03/18/03: 'Eurabia' will have to look after herself
02/27/03: Death wish
02/19/03: The curtain will come down on the peaceniks
02/10/03: Let's quit the UN
02/03/03: Columbia reality-check
01/29/03: Go forth and multiply
01/09/03: America's fake identity crisis
12/31/02: GOP underperforms, but Dems are laughable
11/26/02: A bombing pause --- for 12 months!?
10/30/02: Stop making excuses for Muslim extremists
09/27/02: The more inventively you try to ''explain'' the Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated, the more you risk sounding just as nutty as them
08/23/02: Battered Westerner Syndrome inflicted by myopic Muslim defenders
08/09/02: Friends in low places
08/02/02: Armageddon out of here
07/26/02: Enjoy the ''scandal'' while you can, lads
07/16/02: Arafat is toast; Bush knows it --- so why doesn't the rest of the world?
07/10/02: Hey, FBI: So, denial really is a river in Egypt!
06/20/02: A fight to the finish
06/11/02: Rock, royalty a good match
05/31/02: Unless we change our ways ... the world faces a future where things look pretty darn good
05/24/02: Sweet land of liberty: Britain and Europe have free governments, but only in the US are the people truly free
05/14/02: Extreme hypocrisy in the pursuit of 'peace' is ...
05/10/02: The home office of extremism
05/01/02 Slipping down the Eurinal of history: France, the joke is on you
04/23/02 It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land
04/16/02 Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans'
04/09/02 Arafat has begun his countdown to oblivion. Now it's time to crush the Palestinian uprising
03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird

© 2002, Mark Steyn